Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There's Magic In the Air

Magnet # 389:  Sights of Gatlinburg

Material:  Pewter

Purchased By:  Me

Tennessee's "Gateway to the Smokies" is the place to be tomorrow as it kicks off its 21st annual Galinburg Winter Magic Program.  Each day after sunset, the city will go up in a spectacular display of over three million LED lights.  For the first night, a fireworks display will start the festivities at dusk.  Later, there will also be some great entertainers performing in several locations on the Downtown Parkway.  Musical groups The Grassabillies, Steve Brown and Hurricane Ridge, and The Holloway Sisters and Boogertown Gap are all scheduled to appear, as well as belly dancers and, appropriately enough,  magicians. And if the onlookers there get a little cool as temperatures drop during opening night, they can stop by the yearly Chili Cookoff to warm up.  There, eight bucks admission will get them a spoon, a ballot, and the opportunity to sample kettles of chili from over 20 different vendors.  They'll vote on the People's Choice Award, but a variety of awards in categories ranging from Best Booth Presentation, Most Unique Chili Name, and Best Apron Design to, of course, Best Taste will also be given.  And in nearby Pigeon Forge, tonight marks the beginning of the 21st annual Winterfest Kick Off at Patriot Park.  This display will feature over five million lights all along their stretch of the Parkway.  Sounds like this is one of the best times to visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

While Native Americans such as the Cherokee had been in the area that would become Gatlinburg for centuries, the first person of European descent to settle there was actually William Ogle, a settler from South Carolina.  He wasn't able to stay long, though.  After building his cabin there, he returned to the Palmetto State to bring back his family, but passed away before they could leave.  Eventually, his widow came with her brother's family and they built another log cabin that still stands.  Over the years, more settlers steadily set up home in the area, including some who had fought in the Revolutionary War and were given their land in return for their military service.  The story behind Gatlinburg's name is somewhat interesting.  A settler named Radford Gatlin owned a general store there, and when a post office was opened inside it in 1856, they logically named the town after him.  But he was hardly a founding member of the town named after him - he'd only been there two years at the time of its naming.  Plus, he was often at feud with his neighbors, particularly when he tried to divert the town's main road.  But the last straw was when Gatlin supported the Confederate cause in a town that mostly favored the Union as the country neared the Civil War.  By 1859, Gatlin had been driven out of town, but oddly, none of the locals ever rid it of his name.  Following the Civil War, the logging industry became progressively more prevalent in the area and the threat of deforestation increased.  Fortunately, the movement began to turn the Smoky Mountains into a National Park and one Gatlinburg businessman, Andrew Huff, who actually owned a sawmill, helped advance the cause.  He built the town's first hotel, which proved to be a wise move when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934.  Gatlinburg's location as the closest city on the Tennessee side of the park has earned it the nickname of the "Gateway to the Smokies" and brought in droves of tourists.  And there are plenty of attractions, restaurants, and souvenir shops there waiting for them - Gatlinburg's Downtown Parkway is packed with all sorts of businesses, many with rustic mountain facades.  And this time of the year, the scenic mountain city is perhaps at its most charming, when it's aglow for the holiday season.

Don't worry if aren't able to check out the lights right away - they'll be appearing for a pretty long time.  I'm not sure when the Gatlinburg Winter Magic ends, but Pigeon Forge's Winterfest runs through February 28.  And even if you can't make it out there for the festivities this year, there may very well be some great light displays and Winter-themed events going on closer to you.  I always find venturing out to have a look at lights and decorations is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.  So have a look at your local newspaper, or maybe check out their online site, grab the family, and hop in the car - now's the time to get ready for the season!


  1. That whole area is beautiful this time of year and a great place to do some Christmas shopping with artists shops, numerous souvenir shops and the outlet malls in Pigeon Forge.

  2. Th shopping there really is great - particularly if you're looking for a bargain.